Infobox Military Person
name= Joseph Warren Stilwell
born= birth date|1883|03|19
died= death date and age|1946|10|12|1883|03|19
San Francisco, California
caption=Gen. Joseph Warren Stilwell, U.S.A.
nickname= "Vinegar Joe," "Uncle Joe," "Old Two Shirts."
allegiance=flagicon|United States United States of America
United States Army
commands= 7th Infantry Division
China Burma India Theater Northern Combat Area Command(NCAC) Army Ground Forces U.S. Tenth Army U.S. Sixth ArmyWestern Defense Command
World War I
Battle of St. Mihiel World War II
awards= Distinguished Service Cross
Army Distinguished Service Medal(2) Legion of Merit
laterwork= Chief of Staff to
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek
General Joseph Warren Stilwell (
March 19, 1883– October 12, 1946) was a United States Armyfour-star General best-known for his service in Chinaand Burma. His contempt for formal military dress, his concern for the enlisted man, and his caustic personality would gain him two sobriquets: "Uncle Joe" and "Vinegar Joe."
Stilwell was born
19 March 1883in Palatka, Floridaof patrician Yankeestock. [Barbara Tuchman, "Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911 - 45" (New York, New York: Macmillan Co., 1971), 10.] His parents were Doctor Benjamin Stilwell and Mary A. Peene. Stilwell was an eighth generation descendant of an English colonist who arrived in America in 1638, whose descendants remained in New Yorkup through the birth of Stilwell's father. [Tuchman, "Stilwell and the American Experience," 9.] Named for a family friend, as well as the doctor who delivered him, Joseph Stilwell, known as Warren by his family, grew up in New York, under a strict regimen from his father that included an emphasis on religion. Stilwell later admitted to his daughter that he picked up criminal instincts due to,"...being forced to go to Church and Sunday School, and seeing how little real good religion does anybody, I advise passing them all up and using common sense instead." [Tuchman, "Stilwell and the American Experience," 11.]
Stilwell's rebellious attitude led him to a record of unruly behavior once he reached a post-graduate level at
Yonkers High School. Prior to this last year, Stilwell had performed meticulously in his classes, and had participated actively in Football (as quarterback) and Track. [Tuchman, 11.] Under the discretion of his father, Stilwell was placed into a post-graduate course following graduation, and immediately formed a group of friends whose activities ranged from card playing to stealing the desserts from the senior dance in 1900. This last event, in which an administrator was punched, led to the expulsions and suspensions for Stilwell's friends. Stilwell, meanwhile, having already graduated, was once again by his father's guidance sent to attend the United States Military Academyat West Point, rather than to proceed to Yale Universityas originally planned. [Tuchman, "Stilwell and the American Experience", 12.]
Despite missing the deadline to apply for Congressional appointment to the military academy, Stilwell gained entry through the use of family connections who knew President
William McKinley. In his first year, Stilwell underwent hazingas a plebethat he referred to as "hell." [Tuchman, "Stilwell and the American Experience", 12 - 13.] While at West Point, Stilwell showed an aptitude for languages, such as French, in which he ranked first in his class during his second year. In the field of sports, Stilwell is credited with introducing basketballto the Academy, and participating in cross-country running(as Captain), as well as playing on the varsity football team. At West Point he had two demerits for laughing during drill. Ultimately, Stilwell graduated from the academy ranked 32nd in a class of 124 cadets. [Tuchamn, "Stilwell and the American Experience", 15.]
Stilwell later taught at West Point, and attended the Infantry Advanced Course and the
Command and General Staff College. During World War I, he was the U.S. Fourth Corps intelligence officer and helped plan the St. Mihiel offensive. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his service in France.
Stilwell is often remembered by his sobriquet, "Vinegar Joe", which he acquired while a commander at
Fort Benning, Georgia. Stilwell often gave harsh critiques of performance in field exercises, and a subordinate - stung by Joe's caustic remarks - drew a caricature of Stilwell rising out of a vinegar bottle. After discovering the caricature, Stilwell pinned it to a board and had the drawing photographed and distributed to friends. [Tuchman, "Stilwell and the American Experience in China 1911-45", pg 125]
Between the wars, Stilwell served three tours in
China, where he became fluent in Chinese, and was the military attaché at the U.S. Legation in Beijing from 1935 to 1939. In 1939 and 1940 he served in the 2nd Infantry Division and from 1940 to 1941 organized and trained the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, California. It was there that his leadership style - which emphasized concern for the average soldier and minimized ceremonies and officious discipline - earned him the nickname of “Uncle Joe.”
Just prior to
World War II, Stilwell was recognized as the top corps commander in the Army and was initially selected to plan and command the Allied invasion of North Africa. [Barbara Tuchman, "Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911 - 45" (New York, New York: Macmillan Co., 1971), p. 231 - 232.] However, when it became necessary to send a senior officer to China to keep that country in the War, Stilwell was selected, over his personal objections, by President Franklin Rooseveltand his old friend, Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall. He became the Chief of Staff to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, served as the commander of the China Burma India Theaterresponsible for all Lend-Leasesupplies going to China, and later was Deputy Commander of the South East Asia Command. Unfortunately, despite his status and position in China, he soon became embroiled in conflicts over U.S. Lend-Lease aid and Chinese political sectarianism.
Stilwell's assignment in the China-Burma-India Theater, while a geographical command on the same level as the commands of
Dwight D. Eisenhowerand Douglas MacArthur, was complicated due to two principal factors: the theater's lower priority for supplies and personnel, and the need to balance delicate political alliances. The British and the Chinese were ill-equipped and more often than not on the receiving end of Japanese offensives. Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, commander of Nationalist Chinese forces, in particular was interested in conserving his troops and Allied Lend-Lease supplies for use against any sudden Japanese offensive, as well as against Chinese Communist forces in a later civil war. The Generalissimo's wariness increased after observing the disastrous Allied performance against the Japanese in Burma. ["U.S. Army Operations in World War II: Burma, 1942" http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/burma42/burma42.htm] [Sherry, Mark D., "China Defensive 1942-1945", U.S. Army Center of Military History, CBI Background http://www.cbi-history.com/part_xii_china_def.html] After fighting and resisting the Japanese for five years, many in the Nationalist government felt that it was time for the Allies to assume a greater burden in fighting the war. [Tuchman, "Stilwell and the American Experience", p.303.]
However, the first step to fighting the war for Stilwell was the reformation of the Chinese Army. [Tuchman, "Stilwell and the American Experience in China," p. 304.] These reforms clashed with the delicate balance of political and military alliances in China, which kept the Generalissimo in power. Reforming the army meant removing men who maintained Chiang's position as commander-in-chief. [Tuchman, p. 306.] While he gave Stilwell technical overall command of some Chinese troops, Chiang worried that the new American-led forces would become yet another independent force outside of his control. [Sherry, Mark D., "China Defensive 1942-1945", U.S. Army Center of Military History, CBI Background http://www.cbi-history.com/part_xii_china_def.html] Since 1942, members of the Generalissimo's staff had continually objected to Chinese troops being used in Burma for the purpose, as they viewed it, of returning that country to British colonial control. ["U.S. Army Operations in World War II: Burma, 1942" http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/burma42/burma42.htm] [Sherry, Mark D., "China Defensive 1942-1945", U.S. Army Center of Military History, CBI Background http://www.cbi-history.com/part_xii_china_def.html] Chiang therefore sided with General Claire Chennault's proposals that the war against the Japanese be continued largely using smaller Chinese forces supported by air forces, something Chennault assured the Generalissimo was feasible. The dilemma forced Chennault and Stilwell into competition for the valuable Lend-Lease supplies arriving over the
Himalayasfrom British-controlled India — an obstacle referred to as " The Hump." [Tuchman, p. 307.] George Marshall, in his biennial report covering the period of July 1, 1943 to June 30, 1945, acknowledged he had given Stilwell "one of the most difficult" assignments of any theater commander. [Eldridge, p. 160.]
Arriving in Burma just in time to experience the collapse of the Allied defense of that country, which cut China off from all land and sea supply routes, Stilwell personally led his staff of 117 men and women out of Burma into
Assam, India on foot, marching at what his men called the 'Stilwell stride' - 105 paces per minute. ["Glimpse of an Epic", Time Magazine, Monday, Aug. 10, 1942] . The Assam route was also used by other retreating Allied and Chinese forces. In India, Stilwell soon became well known for his no-nonsense appearance and disregard for military pomp and ceremony. His trademarks were a battered Army campaign hat, GI shoes, and a plain service uniform with no insignia of rank; he frequently carried a .30 Springfield rifle in preference to a sidearm. His hazardous march out of Burma and his bluntly honest assessment of the disaster captured the imagination of the American public: "I claim we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back and retake it." ["Glimpse of an Epic", Time Magazine, Monday, Aug. 10, 1942] . However, Stilwell's derogatory remarks castigating the ineffectiveness of what he termed "Limey" forces, a viewpoint often repeated by Stilwell's staff, did not sit well with British and Commonwealth commanders. [Farquharson, "For Your Tomorrow: Canadians and the Burma Campaign, 1941-1945", Trafford Publishing, (2004), ISBN 1412015367, 9781412015363, p.59]
After the Japanese occupied Burma, China was completely cut off from Allied aid and materiel except through the hazardous route of flying cargo aircraft over the Hump. Early on, the Roosevelt administration and the
War Departmenthad given priority to other theaters for U.S. combat forces, equipment, and logistical support. With the closure of the Burma Road and the fall of Burma, it was realized that even replacing Chinese war losses would be extremely difficult. Consequently, the Allies' initial strategy was to keep Chinese resistance to the Japanese going by providing a lifeline of logistical and air support.
Convinced that the Chinese soldier was the equal of any given proper care and leadership, Stilwell established a training center for two divisions of Chinese troops from forces that had retreated to Assam from Burma. From the outset, Stilwell's primary goals were the opening of a land route to China from northern Burma and India by means of a ground offensive in northern Burma, so that greater supplies could be transported to China, and to organize, equip, and train a greatly expanded, modernized, and competent Chinese army that would fight the Japanese in the China-Burma-India theater (CBI). [Samson, Jack, "The Flying Tiger: The True Story of General Claire Chennault and the U.S. 14th Air Force in China", Globe Pequot Press (2005) ISBN 1592287115, 9781592287116, p. 190] [Sherry, Mark D., "China Defensive 1942-1945", U.S. Army Center of Military History, CBI Background http://www.cbi-history.com/part_xii_china_def.html] Stilwell argued that the CBI was the only area at that time where the possibility existed for the Allies of engaging large numbers of troops against their common enemy, Japan. Unfortunately, the huge airborne logistical train of support from the USA to British India was still in the process of getting organized, while supplies being flown over the Hump were barely sufficient to maintain Chennault's air operations and replace some Chinese war losses, let alone equip and supply an entire army. [Samson, Jack, "The Flying Tiger: The True Story of General Claire Chennault and the U.S. 14th Air Force in China", Globe Pequot Press (2005) ISBN 1592287115, 9781592287116, p. 190] [Sherry, Mark D., "China Defensive 1942-1945", U.S. Army Center of Military History, CBI Background http://www.cbi-history.com/part_xii_china_def.html] Additionally, critical supplies intended for the CBI were being diverted due to various crises in other combat theaters. [Sherry, Mark D., "China Defensive 1942-1945", U.S. Army Center of Military History, CBI Background http://www.cbi-history.com/part_xii_china_def.html] As a result, most Allied commanders in India, with the exception of General Wingate and his Chindit operations, were focused on defensive measures. During this time in India, Stilwell became increasingly disenchanted with British forces, and did not hesitate to voice criticisms of what he viewed as hesitant or cowardly behavior. [Farquharson, "For Your Tomorrow: Canadians and the Burma Campaign, 1941-1945", Trafford Publishing, (2004), ISBN 1412015367, 9781412015363, p.59] Captain
Charlton Ogburn, Jr., a U.S. Army Marauder officer, and Major John Masters, a British Gurkha Chindit brigade major, would both later recall Stilwell's appointment of a staff officer specially detailed by him to visit subordinate commands in order to chastise their officers and men as being 'yellow'. [Masters, John, "The Road Past Mandalay", Bantam Press (1979), p. 309-310]
Disagreements with Chiang and the Allies
Stilwell was constantly embroiled in disagreements with Chiang - whom Stilwell labeled "Peanut" in his official reports - about engaging Chinese forces against the Japanese. Stilwell would press Chiang to fight, while Chiang, with some legitimacy, preferred to preserve a defensive posture for political and military reasons. Chiang was concerned that his troops lacked training and supplies, and he also wanted to keep
Chinese Nationalistforces ready to fight the Communists, under Mao Zedongafter the end of the war with the Japanese. Infuriated by what he regarded as Chiang's corruption, incompetence and timidity, Stilwell constantly filed reports to Washington complaining of Chiang's inaction. Of his disagreements with Chiang Kai-shek and his eventual recall from China he wrote in his diary: "The trouble was largely one of posture. I tried to stand on my feet instead of my knees. I did not think the knee position was a suitable one for Americans."
Eventually, Stilwell’s belief that the Generalissimo and his generals were incompetent and corrupt reached such proportions that Stilwell sought to cut off Lend-Lease aid to China. In his diary, which he faithfully kept, Stilwell began to note the corruption and the amount of money ($380,584,000 in 1944 dollars) being wasted upon the procrastinating Chiang and his government.
For his part, Chiang would actually countermand orders to Chinese units issued by Stilwell in his capacity as Chief of Staff. Chiang demanded impossibly large amounts of supplies before he would agree to take offensive action. Since the amount of supplies that could be transported to China by air were inadequate, Stilwell constantly fought not only Chiang but also the American air forces in China under General
Claire Lee Chennault, which demanded large percentages of the supplies for their own operations.
Stilwell was hampered in large part by the rampant corruption of the Chiang regime; often supplies never made it to the conscripts. the Cambridge History of China, for instance, estimates that some 60%-70% of Chiang's Kuomintang conscripts did not make it through their basic training, with some 40% deserting and the remaining 20% dying of starvation before full induction into the military. Similarly, as the war began to wind down much evidence was uncovered to lend credence to Stilwell's accusations; upon completion of the U.S. State Dept White Paper in 1949 on the Chiang regime President Harry Truman reportedly declared "They're all a bunch of damn thieves!" and pulled all economic and military support for the regime, thus leading directly to the KMT downfall and retreat to the island of Formosa.
Stilwell also continually clashed with Field Marshal Archibald Wavell, and apparently came to believe that the British in India were more concerned with protecting their colonial possessions than helping the Chinese fight the Japanese. In August 1943, as a result of constant feuding and conflicting objectives of British, American, and Chinese commands, along with the lack of a coherent strategic vision for the China Burma India (CBI) theater, the Combined Chiefs of Staff split the CBI command into separate Chinese and Southeast Asia theaters.
Myitkyina Offensive and Aftermath
With the establishment of the new South East Asia Command in August 1943, Stilwell was appointed Deputy Supreme Allied Commander under Vice Admiral
Lord Louis Mountbatten. Taking command of various Chinese and Allied forces, including a new U.S. Army special operations formation, the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional) later known as Merrill's Marauders, Stilwell built up his Chinese forces for an eventual offensive in northern Burma. On 21 December, 1943, Stilwell assumed direct control of planning for the invasion of Northern Burma, culminating with capture of the Japanese-held town of Myitkyina. In the meantime, Stilwell ordered General Merrill and the Marauders to commence long-range jungle penetration missions behind Japanese lines after the pattern of the British Chindits. In February 1944, three Marauder battalions marched into Burma. Though Stilwell was at the Ledo Road front when the Marauders arrived at their jump-off point, the general did not walk out to the road to bid them farewell. [ Masters, John, "The Road Past Mandalay", Bantam Press (1979), p. 159]
In April 1944, Stilwell launched his final offensive to capture the Burmese city of
Myitkyina. In support of this objective, the Marauders were ordered to undertake a long flanking maneuver towards the town, involving a grueling 65-mile jungle march. Having been deployed since February in combat operations in the jungles of Burma, the Marauders were seriously depleted and suffering from both combat losses and disease, and lost additional men while en route to the objective. A particularly devastating scourge was a severe outbreak of amoebic dysentery, which erupted shortly after the Marauders linked up with Chinese forces. [Bjorge, Gary J., "Merrill's Marauders: Combined Operations In Northern Burma In 1944" U.S. Army Center of Military History http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/Bjorge/BJORGE.asp] By this time, the men of the Marauders had openly begun to suspect Stilwell's commitment to their welfare. Despite their sacrifices, Stilwell appeared unconcerned about their losses, and had rejected repeated requests for medals for individual acts of heroism. [Hunter, Charles N. (Col.), "Galahad", TX Naylor Company (1963)] Initial promises of a rest and rotation were ignored; the Marauders were not even air-dropped replacement uniforms or mail until late April. [Mehney, Paul, "The Road to Burma", Michigan History Online http://www.michiganhistorymagazine.com/extra/india/burma.html] ["The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II: India-Burma" http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-C-India/index.html]
On May 17, 1,310 remaining Marauders attacked Myitkyina airfield in concert with elements of two Chinese infantry regiments and a small artillery contingent. [U.S. Army Center of Military History, "Merrill's Marauders February - May 1944, Third Mission: Myitkyina" (1990) http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/marauders/marauders-third.html] ["Merrill's Marauders: February to May, 1944" Diane Publishing (1990), ISBN 078813275X, 9780788132759, pp. 109-110] The airfield was quickly taken, but the town, which Stilwell's intelligence staff had believed to be lightly defended, [Tuchman, Barbara, "Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45", Grove Press (2001), ISBN 0802138527, 9780802138521, p. 450] was in fact garrisoned by significant numbers of well-equipped Japanese troops, who were steadily being reinforced. [Mehney, Paul, "The Road to Burma", Michigan History Online http://www.michiganhistorymagazine.com/extra/india/burma.html] A preliminary attack on the town by two Chinese regiments was thrown back with heavy losses. [Mehney, Paul, "The Road to Burma", Michigan History Online http://www.michiganhistorymagazine.com/extra/india/burma.html] [Busch, Briton C., "Bunker Hill To Bastogne: Elite Forces and American Society", Brassey's Publishing (2006), ISBN 1574887750, 9781574887754, p. 182] The Marauders did not have the manpower to immediately overwhelm Myitkyina and its defenses; by the time additional Chinese forces arrived and were in a position to attack, Japanese forces totaled some 4,600 [Busch, Briton C., "Bunker Hill To Bastogne: Elite Forces and American Society", Brassey's Publishing (2006), ISBN 1574887750, 9781574887754, p. 182] fanatical Japanese defenders. ["Merrill's Marauders: February to May, 1944" Diane Publishing (1990), ISBN 078813275X, 9780788132759, pp. 109-110] [U.S. Army Center of Military History, "Merrill's Marauders February - May 1944, Third Mission: Myitkyina" (1990) http://www.history.army.mil/books/wwii/marauders/marauders-third.html]
During the Myitkyina siege, which took place during the height of the monsoon season, Marauders' second-in-command, Col. Hunter, as well as the unit's regimental and battalion level surgeons, had urgently recommended that the entire 5307th be relieved of duty and returned to rear areas for rest and recovery. By this time, most of the men had fevers and continual dysentery, forcing the men to cut the seats out of their uniform trousers in order to fire their weapons and relieve themselves simultaneously. [Taylor, Thomas H. and Martin, Robert J., "Rangers: Lead the Way", Turner Publishing Company (1997) ISBN 1563111829, 9781563111822, p. 94] ["India-Burma, The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II" http://www.history.army.mil/brochures/indiaburma/indiaburma.htm] Stilwell rejected the evacuation recommendation, though he did make a frontline inspection of the Myitkyina lines. Afterwards, he ordered all medical staff to stop returning combat troops suffering from disease or illness, and instead return them to combat status, using medications to keep down fevers. [Bjorge, Gary J., "Merrill's Marauders: Combined Operations In Northern Burma In 1944", U.S. Army Center of Military History http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/Bjorge/BJORGE.asp] The feelings of many Marauders towards General Stilwell at that time were summed up by one soldier, who stated, "I had him [Stilwell] in my sights. I coulda' squeezed one off and no one woulda' known it wasn't a Jap who got that son of a bitch." [Taylor, Thomas H. and Martin, Robert J., "Rangers: Lead the Way", Turner Publishing Company (1997) ISBN 1563111829, 9781563111822, p. 94]
Stilwell also ordered that all Marauders evacuated from combat due to wounds or fever first submit to a special medical 'examination' by doctors appointed by his headquarters staff. These examinations passed many ailing soldiers as fit for duty; Stilwell's staff roamed hospital hallways in search of any Marauder with a temperature lower than 103 degrees Fahrenheit. [Taylor, Thomas H. and Martin, Robert J., "Rangers: Lead the Way", Turner Publishing Company (1997) ISBN 1563111829, 9781563111822, p. 94] Some of the men who were passed and sent back into combat were immediately re-evacuated as unfit at the insistence of forward medical personnel. Later, Stilwell's staff would place blame on Army medical personnel for overzealously interpreting Stilwell's return-to-duty order. [Time Magazine, "The Bitter Tea of General Joe", August 14, 1944]
During the Myitkyina siege, Japanese soldiers resisted fiercely, generally fighting to the last man. As a result, Myitkyina did not fall until August 4, 1944, after Stilwell was forced to send in thousands of Chinese reinforcements, though Stilwell was pleased that the objective had at last been taken (his notes from his personal diary contain the notation, "Boy, will this burn up the Limeys!" [Masters, John, "The Road Past Mandalay", Bantam Books (1979), p. 265] ). Later, Stilwell blamed the length of the siege, among other things, on British and Gurkha Chindit forces for not promptly responding to his demands to move north in an attempt to pressure Japanese troops. This was in spite of the fact that the Chindits themselves had suffered grievous casualties in several fierce pitched battles with Japanese troops in the Burmese jungles, along with losses from illness and combat exhaustion. [Bjorge, Gary J., "Merrill's Marauders: Combined Operations In Northern Burma In 1944", U.S. Army Center of Military History http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/Bjorge/BJORGE.asp] Stilwell also had not kept his British allies clearly informed of his force movements, nor coordinated his offensive plans with those of General Slim.
Bereft of further combat replacements for his hard-pressed Marauder battalions, Stilwell felt he had no choice but to continue offensive operations with his existing forces, using the Marauders as 'the point of the spear' until they had either achieved all their objectives, or were wiped out. ["The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II: India-Burma" http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-C-India/index.html] He was also concerned that pulling out the Marauders, the only U.S. ground unit in the campaign, would result in charges of favoritism, forcing him to evacuate the exhausted Chinese and British Chindit forces as well. ["The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II: India-Burma" http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-C-India/index.html] When General William Slim, commander of British and Commonwealth forces in Burma, informed Stilwell that his men were exhausted and should be withdrawn, Stilwell rejected the idea, insisting that his subordinate commanders simply did not understand enlisted men and their tendency to magnify physical challenges. [Slim, William, "Defeat Into Victory", London: Cassell (1956), ISBN 0-304-29114-5, 0-330-39066-X] Having made his own 'long march' out of Burma under his own power using jungle trails, Stilwell found it difficult to sympathize with those who had been in combat in the jungle for months on end without relief. In retrospect, his statements at the time revealed a lack of understanding of the limitations of lightly-equipped unconventional forces when used in conventional roles. [Bjorge, Gary J., "Merrill's Marauders: Combined Operations In Northern Burma In 1944", sub. "Leadership and Morale", U.S. Army Center of Military History, p.4 http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/Bjorge/BJORGE.asp] ["The U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II: India-Burma" http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-C-India/index.html] Myitkyina and the dispute over evacuation policy precipitated a hurried Army Inspector General investigation, followed by U.S. congressional committee hearings, though no disciplinary measures were taken against General Stilwell for his decisions as overall commander. [Taylor, Thomas H. and Martin, Robert J., "Rangers: Lead the Way", Turner Publishing Company (1997) ISBN 1563111829, 9781563111822, pp. 94-96] Only a week after the fall of Myitkyina in Burma, the 5307th Marauder force, down to only 130 combat-effective men (out of the original 2,997), was disbanded.
Conflict with General Chennault
One of the most significant conflicts to emerge during the war was between General Stilwell and General
Claire Lee Chennault, the commander of the famed "Flying Tigers" and later air force commander. As adviser to the Chinese air forces, Chennault proposed a limited air offensive against the Japanese in China in 1943 using a series of forward air bases. Stilwell insisted that the idea was untenable, and that any air campaign should not begin until fully fortified air bases supported by large infantry reserves had first been established. Stilwell then argued that all air resources be diverted to his forces in India for an early conquest of North Burma. [Samson, Jack, "The Flying Tiger: The True Story of General Claire Chennault and the U.S. 14th Air Force in China", Globe Pequot Press (2005) ISBN 1592287115, 9781592287116, p. 190]
Following Chennault's advice, Generalissimo Chiang rejected the proposal; British commanders sided with Chennault, aware they could not launch a coordinated Allied offensive into Burma in 1943 with the resources then available. [Samson, Jack, "The Flying Tiger: The True Story of General Claire Chennault and the U.S. 14th Air Force in China", Globe Pequot Press (2005) ISBN 1592287115, 9781592287116, p. 190] During the summer of 1943, Stilwell's headquarters concentrated on plans to rebuild the Chinese Army for an offensive in northern Burma, despite Chiang's insistence on support to Chennault's air operations. Stilwell believed that after forcing a supply route through northern Burma by means of a major ground offensive against the Japanese, he could train and equip thirty Chinese divisions with modern combat equipment. A smaller number of Chinese forces would transfer to India, where two or three new Chinese divisions would also be raised. This plan remained only theoretical at the time, since available airlift capacity for deliveries of supplies to China over
the Humpbarely sustained Chennault's air operations, and were wholly insufficient to equip a new Chinese Army. [Sherry, Mark D., "China Defensive 1942-1945", U.S. Army Center of Military History, CBI Background http://www.cbi-history.com/part_xii_china_def.html]
In 1944, the Japanese launched the counter-offensive,
Operation Ichi-Go, quickly overrunning Chennault's forward air bases and proving Stilwell partially correct. However, by this time, Allied supply efforts via the Hump airlift were steadily improving in tonnage supplied per month; with the replacement of Chinese war losses, Chennault now saw little need for a ground offensive in northern Burma in order to re-open a ground supply route to China. This time, augmented with increased military equipment and additional troops, and concerned about defense of the approaches to India, British authorities sided with Stilwell. [Masters, John, "The Road Past Mandalay", Bantam Press (1979), p. 155-157]
In coordination with a southern offensive by Nationalist Chinese forces under General
Wei Li-huang, Allied troops under Stilwell's command launched the long-awaited invasion of northern Burma; after heavy fighting and casualties, the two forces linked up in January 1945. Stilwell's strategy remained unchanged: opening a new ground supply route from India to to China would allow the Allies to equip and train new Chinese army divisions for use against the Japanese. The new road network, later called the Ledo Road, would link the northern end of the Burma Roadas the primary supply route to China; Stilwell's staff planners had estimated the route would supply 65,000 tons of supplies per month. [Sherry, Mark D., "China Defensive 1942-1945", U.S. Army Center of Military History, CBI Background http://www.cbi-history.com/part_xii_china_def.html] Using these figures, Stilwell argued that the Ledo Road network would greatly surpass the tonnage being airlifted over the Hump. [Samson, Jack, "The Flying Tiger: The True Story of General Claire Chennault and the U.S. 14th Air Force in China", Globe Pequot Press (2005) ISBN 1592287115, 9781592287116, p. 190] General Chennault doubted that such an extended network of trails through difficult jungle could ever match the tonnage that could be delivered with modern cargo transport aircraft then deploying in-theater. [Guangqiu Xu, "War Wings: The United States and Chinese Military Aviation, 1929-1949", Greenwood Publishing Group (2001), ISBN 0313320047, 9780313320040, p. 191] Progress on the Ledo Road was slow, and could not be completed until the linkup of forces in January 1945.
In the end, Stilwell's plan to train and modernize thirty Chinese divisions in China (as well as two or three divisions from forces already in India) was never fully realized. As Chennault predicted, supplies carried over the Ledo Road at no time approached tonnage levels of supplies airlifted monthly into China via the Hump [Air Force Association, Flying The Hump http://www.afa.org/magazine/1991/0391hump.asp] . In July 1945, 71,000 tons of supplies were flown over the Hump, compared to only 6,000 tons using the Ledo Road, and the airlift operation continued in operation until the end of the war. ["The Burma Front" http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/WW2Timeline/Pacific06b.html] [Guangqiu Xu, "War Wings: The United States and Chinese Military Aviation, 1929-1949", Greenwood Publishing Group (2001), ISBN 0313320047, 9780313320040, p. 191] By the time supplies were flowing over the Ledo Road in large quantities, operations in other theaters had shaped the course of the war against Japan. [Sherry, Mark D., "China Defensive 1942-1945", U.S. Army Center of Military History, CBI Background http://www.cbi-history.com/part_xii_china_def.html] In acknowledgment of Stilwell's efforts, the
Ledo Roadwas later renamed the Stilwell Road.
Recall from China
On October 19th, 1944, Stilwell was recalled from his command by President
Franklin D. Roosevelt. Partly as a result of controversy concerning the casualties suffered by U.S. forces in Burma and partly due to continuing difficulties with the British and Chinese commanders, Stilwell's return to the United States was not accompanied by the usual ceremony. Upon arrival, he was met by two Army generals at the airport, who told him that he was not to answer any media questions about China whatsoever.
Stilwell was replaced by General
Albert C. Wedemeyer, who received a telegram from General Marshall on October 27, 1944 directing him to proceed to China to assume command of the China theatre and replace General Stilwell. Wedemeyer later recalled his initial dread over the assignment, as service in the China theater was considered a graveyard for American officials, both military and diplomatic. [Wedemeyer, Albert C. (Gen), "Wedemeyer Reports!", Henry Holt Co. (1958) ISBN 0-89275-011-1, ISBN 0-8159-7216-4, p. 269] When Wedemeyer actually arrived at Stilwell’s headquarters after Stilwell’s dismissal, Wedemeyer was dismayed to discover that Stilwell had intentionally departed without seeing him, and did not leave a a single briefing paper for his guidance, though departing U.S. military commanders habitually greeted their replacement in order to thoroughly brief them on the strengths and weaknesses of headquarters staff, the issues confronting the command, and planned operations. [Wedemeyer, Albert C. (Gen), "Wedemeyer Reports!", Henry Holt Co. (1958) ISBN 0-89275-011-1, ISBN 0-8159-7216-4, pp. 303-304] Searching the offices, Wedemeyer could find no documentary record of Stilwell's plans or records of his former or future operations. [Wedemeyer, Albert C. (Gen), "Wedemeyer Reports!", Henry Holt Co. (1958) ISBN 0-89275-011-1, ISBN 0-8159-7216-4, pp. 303-304] General Wedemeyer then spoke with Stilwell’s staff officers but learned little from them because Stilwell, according to the staff, kept everything in his “hip pocket”. [Wedemeyer, Albert C. (Gen), "Wedemeyer Reports!", Henry Holt Co. (1958) ISBN 0-89275-011-1, ISBN 0-8159-7216-4, p. 294]
Despite prompting by the news media, Stilwell never complained about his treatment by Washington or by Chiang. He later served as Commander of
Army Ground Forces, U.S. Tenth ArmyCommander in the closing battle for Okinawain 1945, and as U.S. Sixth ArmyCommander.
In November, he was appointed to lead a "War Department Equipment Board" in an investigation of the Army's modernization in light of its recent experience. Among his recommendations was the establishment of a combined arms force to conduct extended service tests of new weapons and equipment and then formulate doctrine for its use, and the abolition of specialized anti-tank units. His most notable recommendation was for a vast improvement of the Army's defenses against all airborne threats, including
ballistic missiles. In particular, he called for "guided interceptor missiles, dispatched in accordance with electronically computed data obtained from radar detection stations." [ [http://www.mda.mil/mdalink/html/milstone.html Missile Defense Milestones] ]
Stilwell died of
stomach canceron 12 October 1946at the Presidio of San Francisco, while still on active duty. His ashes were scattered on the Pacific Ocean, and a cenotaphwas placed at the West Point Cemetery. Among his military decorations are the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Meritdegree of Commander, the Bronze Star, and the Combat Infantryman Badge(this last award given to him as he was dying from stomach cancer).
Stilwell’s home, built in 1933-1934 on Carmel Point,
Carmel, California, remains a private home with a plaque in front identifying it as the general's home. A number of streets, buildings, and areas across the country have been named for Stilwell over the years, including Joseph Stilwell Middle School in Jacksonville, Florida. The Soldiers’ Club he envisioned in 1940 (a time when there was no such thing as a soldiers’ club in the Army) was completed in 1943 at Fort Ord on the bluffs overlooking Monterey Bay. Many years later the building was renamed “Stilwell Hall” in his honor, but because of the erosion of the bluffs over the decades, the building was taken down in 2003. Stilwell's former residence in Chongqing - a city along the Yangtze River to which Chiang's government retreated after being forced from Nanjing by Japanese troops - has now been converted to a museum in his honor.
In her book "
Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45", Barbara Tuchmanwrote that Stilwell was sacrificed as a political expedient due to his inability to get along with his allies in the theater. Stilwell's removal was certainly a result of substantial political pressure by Chiang through diplomatic means and using influential American friends who supported Chiang's government. One such group, informally called the " China Lobby," included "Time" publisher Henry Luceand his wife Clare Boothe Luceas well as J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBIFact|date=August 2008.
Some historians (citation needed) have theorized that Roosevelt was concerned that Chiang would sign a separate peace with Japan, which would free many Japanese divisions to fight elsewhere, and that Roosevelt wanted to placate Chiang.Fact|date=September 2008 The power struggle over the China Theater that emerged between Stilwell, Chennault, and Chiang reflected the American political divisions of the time.
A highly different interpretation of events was that Stilwell, pressing for a more full engagement of Chinese forces, had made diplomatic inroads with the Chinese Communist Red Army commanded by
Mao Zedong. He had gotten them to agree to follow an American commander. Because of the displeasure of Chiang Kai-Shek of being bypassed by the American general, he had Stilwell recalled to the United States. "New York Times" drama critic-turned-war correspondent Brooks Atkinsonwrote at the time: "The decision to relieve General Stilwell represents the political triumph of a moribund, anti-democratic regime that is more concerned with maintaining its political supremacy than in driving the Japanese out of China. The Chinese Communists... have good armies that they are claiming to be fighting guerrilla warfare against the Japanese in North China -- actually they are covertly or even overtly building themselves up to fight Generalissimo's government forces... The Generalissimo naturally regards these armies as the chief threat to the country and his supremacy... has seen no need to make sincere attempt to arrange at least a truce with them for the duration of the war... No diplomatic genius could have overcome the Generalissimo's basic unwillingness to risk his armies in battle with the Japanese...Note that Mao Tse-Tong, the supreme leader of the Communist regime, had officially thanked the Japanese in later years for their invasion. Indeed without the Japanese invasion, Chiang Kai-shek would have demolished the Communists forces readily and history will be totally different!..."cite news
publisher="Time" magazine quoting the "
New York Times"
accessdate=2007-03-02] Atkinson, who had visited Mao in
Yenan, saw the Communist Chinese forces as a democratic movement (after Atkinson visited Mao, his article on his visit was titled "Yenan: A Chinese Wonderland City"), and the Nationalists in turn as hopelessly reactionary and corrupt; this view represented that of many of the U.S. press corps in China at the time. [Knightley, Phillip, "The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Iraq", JHU Press (2004), ISBN 0801880300, 9780801880308, p. 303]
Film and Media
Stillwell was portrayed on film by
Erville Aldersonin " Objective, Burma!" (1945), by John Hoytin Samuel Fuller's "Merrill's Marauders" (1962) and by Robert Stackin Steven Spielberg's "1941" (1979).
On August 24, 2000, the
United States Postal Serviceissued a 10¢ postage stamp honoring Stilwell.
The award for the Outstanding Overall Cadet, Senior Division, in the
California Cadet Corpsis named the General Joseph W. Stilwell Award. [Cadet Regulation 1-1, "Cadet Decorations and Awards", 20 February 2006. Available from http://cacc.cadet.org]
Awards and decorations
*Distinguished Service Cross
Army Distinguished Service Medalwith Oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit
Philippine Campaign Medal
World War I Victory Medal
China Service Medal
American Defense Service Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge(to date, Stilwell is the only soldier ever to receive a CIB as a general officer, through an act of Congress)
History of the Republic of China
Military of the Republic of China
National Revolutionary Army
Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)
* [http://cbi-theater-3.home.comcast.net/stilwellpages The Stilwell Pages]
* [http://www.warbirdforum.com/avg.htm Annals of the Flying Tigers]
*findagrave|22043 Retrieved on
* [http://hoopedia.nba.com/index.php/Joe_Stillwell Stilwell's basketball biography on Hoopedia]
Jack Belden, "Retreat With Stilwell", New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1943. Sympathetic eye witness account.
* Eldridge, Fred "Wrath in Burma The Uncensored Story of Gen. Stilwell" Doubleday & Co., 1946.
*Eric Larrabee, "Commander In Chief", New York: Harper & Row, 1987. ISBN 0-06-039050-6
Jon Latimer, "Burma: The Forgotten War", London: John Murray, 2004. ISBN 978-0719565762
Barbara Tuchman, "Sand Against the Wind: Stilwell and the American Experience in China 1911-45", London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2001. ISBN 978-1842122815. Sympathetic full scale biography.
* Pfefer, Nathan "Vinegar Joe's War" Presidio Press, 2000, ISBN 089141715X.
* Charles F. Romanus Riley Sunderland, "Stilwell's Command Problems" (Washington: Department of the Army, Historical Division, 1956). Official Army history with extensive documentation.
* Rooney, D.D. "Stilwell" Pan Macmillan, 1973, ISBN 0345097890.
* Stilwell, Joseph; White, Theodore, Ed. "The Stilwell Papers" Da Capo Press, 1991, ISBN 030680428x. Stilwell's wartime diaries.
* Hans Van de Ven, "Stilwell in the Stocks: The Chinese Nationalists and the Allied Powers in the Second World War," "Asian Affairs" 34.3 (November 2003): 243-259. Revisionist study argues that Stilwell misunderstood Chiang's military strategy, which was actually flexible and well founded in Chinese realities.
* Hans J. Van de Ven, "War and Nationalism in China, 1925-1945" (London; New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003). Expands revisionist view including longer period of time.
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